Unfortunately I've seen many business bloggers blindly recommend one or the other of these managers to their students, without taking the time to warn of potential downsides, or suggesting alternative options. What follows is my unbiased comparison between these two. I hope it will help you determine which, if either, will best help you promote your work.
(12,000 emails per month)
(12,500 emails per month)
(unlimited emails and storage)
MailChimp Pros & Cons
In case one ever wants to switch services (or just guard against unforeseen disaster), MailChip users are able to easily export, or backup, their list of subscribers.
Final pluses of note are it's quick and simple integration with Google Anylitics, and it's Affiliate Program (if you're into that).
CONS: Ironically, MailChimp does NOT allow affiliate marketing through it's emails. And not only that, but if you are using affiliate links on your blog, or running your own affiliate program through your website, there is a chance of MailChimp suddenly terminating your account, thus annihilating your list and emails forever (unless, of course, you'd backed them up). From MailChimp's Terms of Service:
"No offense intended, but because we must ensure the highest delivery rates possible for all our customers, we do not allow businesses that offer these types of services, products, or content: [...] Affiliate marketers"
So book bloggers, you'd better watch those Amazon Affiliate links in your book reviews! Have that sort of content on your blog, and I would highly recommend staying away from MailChimp. But if you are only promoting your OWN products, then everything is cool with MailChimp, and you should be fine.
UPDATE 01/14: In October of last year, MailChip clarified their position on affiliate links. (Thanks for letting me know, Kasia!) The gist of it? Book bloggers, you're in the clear! Affiliate links within your regular content are allowed, UNLESS you are using them to promote herbal supplements, vitamins, dating services, or Make Money Online courses (yes, even those which have been written by people whom you admire and trust). Read MailChimp's Acceptable Use Policy for a complete list of disallowed products, and don't hesitate to contact them if you're unsure whether or not your site falls under Prohibited Content. But never, ever go about sending straight up affiliate ADVERTISEMENTS to your list. That's still a no-no.
As beautiful as MailChimp's newsletters have the potential to be, if you have little experience with design or computers, the abundance of features will overwhelm you. You'd be better off hiring someone to design a template for you, or using an easier service.
Sadly, MailChimp's auto-responder isn't free. An auto-responder allows you to send out a series of newsletters to new subscribers on autopilot. You could set it up so, say, the email manager would send out a birthday discount to each customer, or send a welcome letter to new subscribers, without your having to press the button. It's a definite bonus for those on a paid plan.
Now this, I'm sure, won't be a negative for all of you, but there is an annoying little chimpanzee graphic sitting in the top right corner of the MailChimp user interface, which is forever saying pithy things, and linking to Youtube videos through it's speech bubble. It's like it wants to distract you from your work. MOST UNAPPRECIATED, CHIMPMONKEY! I am trying to design a newsletter template here, geez. Go play with George and the Man in the Yellow Hat or something.
UPDATE 07/13: MailChip read my review, and decided to fire the little chimpanzee so it could find something better to do with it's time. Well not really, but they did get rid of that element in their recent interface design overhaul. The new design makes the service a lot less confusing and cluttered. I think you'll like it. However, the rest of my above points still hold true.
Mad Mimi Pros & Cons
With RSS to Email, you can set things up so that whenever you publish a new blog post, Mad Mini will place it into their spiffy email template, and send it out to your mailing list automatically. Oh and Etsy sellers? The Mad Mini Etsy add-on enables you to seamlessly add your latest Etsy items to your newsletter. It's pretty darn sweet.
Mad Mimi has an Affiliate Program, but you are NOT allowed to include your affiliate link in any emails sent through Mad Mimi. You are, however, allowed to promote other people's affiliate products through Mad Mimi--so long as no one flags you for spam. To me, this means it's okay to send your book review posts with affiliate links in them, so long as you disclose your affiliation somewhere in the post. (Just don't do something dumb like advertise an $87.00 Clickbank e-book you haven't bothered read. In other words, avoid Warrior Form and all self-proclaimed Internet Marketing Gurus, and you should be fine.)
As with MailChimp, you may backup your list of subscribers, just in case. And to get new subscribers, you may embed a simple sign up form into your website, and--get this--even onto your Facebook page.
CONS: The newsletter has one template. It's a fine looking template, and you can upload your own header into it, switch up the colors and fonts, and rearrange the elements within the layout. But there really isn't much you can customize beyond that, unless you want to do so by inserting custom graphics. Leah Remillét demonstrates this below:
Mad Mimi's sign-up form is a small, embeddable rectangle. It, quite frankly, sucks. There's no room to include any description of what exactly you are asking people to "Sign up!" to. There's space for an image or a short title, but just enough for one word. I'd recommend using an image.
Like MailChimp, the autoresponder feature isn't free here, either. Unlike MailChimp, there's no plain-text email option for free accounts.
Side by Side Screenshots
So Which to Choose?
Well dudes, I'd be interested to know which service you use (or end up deciding to use) to manage your newsletters, and why you settled on your choice. So comment me up! Oh right, and if you have any further questions about these services, or run into any problems using them, let me know below, and I'll try to help. =)